Teachers take one-day strike action 

Province reduces demand for a 10-year contract to six years

click to enlarge PHOTO BY JOHN FRENCH - SCHOOL’S OUT Teachers from across the Sea to Sky school district set up a picket line in front of Spring Creek Elementary School on Monday, May 26. Other schools across the district were also behind picket lines.
  • Photo by John French
  • SCHOOL’S OUT Teachers from across the Sea to Sky school district set up a picket line in front of Spring Creek Elementary School on Monday, May 26. Other schools across the district were also behind picket lines.

The workweek started with an increase in tensions between the BC Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) and the provincial government. Teachers set up picket lines at the public schools throughout the Sea to Sky corridor as part of rotating strikes planned throughout the week across the province.

Sea to Sky Teachers’ Association president Carl Walker says the provincial government and the BC Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA) aren’t willing to bargain.

A statement issued by education minister Peter Fassbender suggests the opposite.

“We want to see a negotiated settlement and BCPSEA is ready to bargain 24/7, anytime, anywhere,” Fassbender said through a news release. “BCPSEA has a fair offer on the table. However, the BCTF leadership is asking for a pay increase and other benefits that are more than four times what other public sector unions have recently settled for and their total demands are well beyond what taxpayers can afford. That remains a key stumbling block to meaningful bargaining.”

While the BCPSEA eased off on its demand for a ten-year contract, Walker said teachers are looking for a compromise on classroom issues.

“Unfortunately, the employer has steadfastly refused to table any improvements to class size, class composition and staffing levels for specialist teachers,” said Walker through his own news release. “Teachers have twice won the right to negotiate our working conditions, which are also students’ learning conditions, in BC Supreme Court. We expect government to bring new funding to the table to make those improvements happen.”

According to the education ministry, funding for the education system has increased by $1 billion dating back to September of 2000-01, despite a drop of 70,000 students enrolled in province since that time.

The sides are working hard to convince parents that the other side is disrupting student learning.

“Premier Clark said children should not be put in the middle, yet she is imposing significant disruptions to the education system,” said BCTF president Jim Iker. “We’ve already heard from secondary school teachers that they will be locked out on the day their students graduate. Is putting Grade 12 grad on the chopping block Christy Clark’s definition of families first?”

Fassbender fired back, suggesting the BCTF is preventing students from learning.

“The true disruption to student learning comes from the BCTF leadership’s decision to turn students away from their classrooms,” said Fassbender.

“Parents and students don't deserve this disruption. We should be resolving this dispute at the negotiating table, not in the classroom or on the picket line.”

Teachers will be back to work through the rest of the week under partial lockout conditions. Teachers have been instructed by the BCPSEA to start work 45 minutes before classes begin and stop working not more than 45 minutes after classes end. In between, the BCPSEA has restricted teachers from meeting or communicating with administrators, attend organizational meetings and attend professional development outside the instructional day.

Check with Pique on Thursday for the latest concerning the labour dispute between teachers and the provincial government.

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